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BECOMING BILLIE HOLIDAY by Carole Boston Weatherford Kirkus Star


by Carole Boston Weatherford & illustrated by Floyd Cooper

Age Range: 14 & up

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 2008
ISBN: 978-1-59078-507-2
Publisher: Wordsong/Boyds Mills

“I toted my songs / like a satchel and felt most / at home when I sang,” says Billie Holiday in this gorgeously produced fictional “life in poems” of the great jazz singer. Weatherford’s poetry sings Lady Day’s blues, from a troubled childhood in Baltimore to success in Harlem and on the road, though a tough road it was. Holiday never knew her father’s love and experienced rape, reform school, jail and vicious racism in a land where “the color line / was as plain as the stripe down a highway.” The first-person poems, titled after actual songs, conclude with Holiday at her peak at age 25, singing her signature “Strange Fruit.” The poetry is rich and evocative, fully up to celebrating a singer who could “breathe a universe in a single note.” Cooper uses his trademark subtractive technique to great effect, providing a beautiful visual complement to the poetry. A remarkable tribute well worthy of its subject. (afterword, bibliography, references, further reading and listening) (Poetry. 14 & up)